Vol. 1, No. 1 (Mar., 1957), pp. 37-47
“The American nation as a symbol is glorified and idealized; it is regarded as superior to other nations in all important respects. Great emphasis is placed on such concepts as national honor and national sovereignty. Other nations are seen as inferior, envious, and threatening. At the worst, they are likely to attack us; at the best, they seek alliances only to pursue their own selfish aims and to “play us for a sucker.” Ethnocentric ideas about human nature rationalize a belief in the inevitability of war. “Human nature being what it is and other ‘races’ being what they are,” so the reasoning goes, “some nation is bound to attack us sooner or later.” Given this “jungle” conception of international relations, our best policy is to be militarily the strongest of all nations, so that none will dare attack us.”
“There is a gradually accumulating body of evidence concerning the kinds of personal characteristics that tend to be associated with preference for a strongly nationalistic viewpoint. In briefly defining nationalism, I suggested that it is a facet of a broader ethnocentric approach in which the distinction between “in-groups and “out-groups” plays a central part. A derivative hypothesis is that those who tend most strongly to fear and derogate other nations will exhibit similar beliefs and feelings about various intra-national groups, such as Negros, Jews, foreigners, lower socio-economic groupings, and the like. This hypothesis was supported in our original research (1) by correlations averaging about .7 between nationalism and other sections of the Ethnocentrism (E) Scale, as well as by interview material. In my 1951 study, the IN Scale derived from the earlier form. Findings such as these support my view that extreme nationalism is a form of “pseudo-patriotism.” Although nationalists glorify America as a symbol, they are inclined to regard most of the American population as an alien out-group. They are activated, it would seem, less by love of Americans and their heritage than by a sense of hostility and anxiety regarding other nations and “outsiders” generally. Internationalists, being under less compulsion either to glorify their own nation or to condemn others, show more genuine attachment to their cultural traditions. Nationalists and internationalists show characteristic differences in ideology spheres apparently far removed from foreign policy and intergroup relations. Nationalism is associated with, for example, with an autocratic orientation toward child-rearing, husband wife relations, and other aspects of family life. Nationalists are inclined to conceive of the family in hierarchical terms. They regard the husband as properly dominant over the wife, the parents are strong authorities requiring obedience and respect above all from their children. They tend to be moralistic and disciplinarian in their child-rearing methods and to be guided by rigidly conventionalized definitions of masculinity and femininity…Again, nationalism is associated with certain patterns of religious ideology, notably those that may be characterized as fundamentalistic or conventionalistic. ”
“One individual holds a nationalistic outlook in part because the images and relationships it portrays reflect so well his unconscious fantasies; the ideology is deeply gratifying and anxiety-binding.
“One symptom of the trend toward authoritarianism is the rapid decrease in ideological choice now available to the general population. “
“It is unrealistic and, ultimately, dangerous to make the casual assumption that America will necessarily constitute a democratic force in world affairs and that our foreign policy will automatically be such as to reduce international tensions. “
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Some commenters and others reacting to my post on nationalism raise the issue of its relationship to patriotism. Even if nationalism is an evil, perhaps patriotism can still be good. Patriotism is certainly distinguishable from nationalism, as I defined that term in my previous post: “loyalty to one’s own nation-state based on ties of language, culture, or ethnicity.” It is also differs from nationalism defined as a sense of moral obligation to members of one’s ethnic or racial group across national boundaries. In common usage, patriotism generally means loyalty to one’s government and/or its ideals regardless of ethnic or racial identity. For example, one can be a patriotic American even if you are a member of an ethnic minority, English is not your native language, you dislike mainstream American popular culture, and so on.
To the extent that patriotism simply means supporting your country when its government promotes good ideals and policies, I’m all in favor of it. Indeed, I place high value on the American political system because, despite serious flaws, it provides a great deal of freedom and happiness to large numbers of people. I also admire it because, unlike most other nations, it is not primarily based on ties of race, language, or ethnicity.
At the same time, I am opposed to patriotism in the sense of valuing a nation or government for its own sake. Unlike senior conspirator Eugene Volokh, I don’t believe that we should “love” our country in the same unconditional way that we love a spouse or family member. That kind of patriotism too readily leads people to support governments that are oppressive and unjust. More fundamentally, it loses sight of the principle that governments and nations are means, not ends in and of themselves. The Founding Fathers, I think, got it right when they wrote in the Preamble to the Constitution that they were creating a new government in order to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The Constitution and the United States generally are not ends in themselves, but means to the objectives laid out in the Preamble. The corollary is that the government deserves patriotic loyalty only in so far as it promotes those objectives better than the available alternatives. If I thought that freedo…
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